Evidence synthesis needs greater incentives

Volume 558 Issue 7710, 21 June 2018

Editorial | 20 June 2018
Evidence synthesis needs greater incentives
Enlarge and better reward efforts that examine past discoveries to set policy and agendas.
As societal challenges grow in research priority, there is ever more need for such synthesis. But it takes effort, as described by, for example, a Cornell University Library guide to a systematic review (go.nature.com/2k6ftil). And, more problematically, the academic ecosystem does not incentivize such work.
To help nudge the system in that direction, Nature this week publishes two Comment articles that highlight the importance of such assessments of evidence, and suggest ways to maximize their effectiveness. In the first, several experts from policy, funding and publishing (including Nature’s editor-in-chief) present four principles to help make evidence syntheses aimed at policymakers easier to commission, and more powerful in delivery and implementation. The second, by two researchers who focus on evidence for conservation biology, discusses a form of evidence synthesis that can provide a more cost-effective way to appraise evidence when data are sparse and patchy. This is a reflection of the reality that, for some interventions, randomized controlled trials aren’t possible, but there is, nevertheless, a need to make sense of the available evidence…